Updated: Sep 18, 2020
My last trip to Ipoh, Malaysia, was my 5th visit (since 2005) to the laid-back city and each of those visits showed me how the old town changed. Since my visit in 2015, Ipoh old town had developed quite a little. The number of cafes multiplied, street arts flourished and the three Concubine Lanes were made-over to revive charms in the old town.
But Ipoh's local food culture is still pretty much intact, preserving the traditional tastes.
I put together a list of venues in and near the old town to go for authentic local food — from my last 3 visits since 2015. However, since I were there usually during weekdays and only 2-3 days on each trip, I had no chance to try the food in coffee shops or restaurants that were closed during my trips.
Fortunately, I still have 9 venues to share. And I will add new ones from future visits. Also, I am not a "best food" follower as I believe different people has different taste buds. As a traveller, there is no way I can try everything in Ipoh and come out with a list of the "best". Just try and pick your own likes. I am only showing what I like from my food trails.
1. Kedai Makanan Nam Heong (南香茶餐室)
Some people said that "if you are in Ipoh and did not try the food and white coffee at Nam Heong, you have not been to Ipoh". While I am not a believer of that kind of talk, I still went to Nam Heong to try the food and, of course, its white coffee.
Ipoh is famous for its white coffee which is usually added with milk. My preference is black coffee with some bitterness but I still try the white coffee while in Ipoh, and especially at Nam Heong. And it is good with strong aroma and not too sweet.
*Special note: Most white coffees that are served in Ipoh's traditional coffee shops are usually brewed in the shops. In most other cities, white coffees are normally served from instant coffee sachets and at higher prices than local coffees.
One of things that Nam Heong did was to gather famous flavours in Ipoh and house them under one roof. There are stalls selling char kway teow, prawn noodle, curry noodle, Hakka noodle (yong tau foo), dim sum, etc. We tried most of the signature food from the stalls and we like them all.
I went back again another day to try the Hakka noodle and, this time, black coffee without the milk. The aroma is even stronger.
And not forgetting to try their freshly-made signature egg tarts and barbecue pork pastry from the dim sum stall. The egg custard is smooth and fine, like tofu, and not watery.
Nam Heong is opened daily from 7:00am to 5:30pm.
2. Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong (新源隆茶室)
Sin Yoon Loong is located right opposite Nam Heong. The coffee shop and Sun Yuan Foong next door seemed to be the same setup. You can sit in one of them and order food from the other one.
We were there for breakfast, so we tried wantan noodle (noodle with meat dumplings and barbecued pork), chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll), traditional breakfast set and tried their white coffee too. Ipoh's chee cheong fun is really different from Singapore, with fried onions, sesame seeds, green chilies and spicy-sweet sauce.
Sin Yoon Loong (and Sun Yuan Foong) is opened daily from 7am to 5pm.
3. Restoran Tauge Ayam Lou Wong (老黄芽菜鸡沙河粉)
One of the food that is a must-try in Ipoh is beansprout chicken (芽菜鸡) with sha hor fun (flat rice noodle). And Lou Wong is one of the restaurants serving the popular dishes. I actually ate at Lou Wong on all my visits to Ipoh.
Steamed chicken and fat, juicy beansprouts (Ipoh's own local produce) are actually served separately as two dishes. For such meal, forgo the rice and try the local sha hor fun (made from rice too).
The main branch of Lou Wong is located in the new town, but they has a branch in the old town two shops away from Restaurant Thean Chun. You can go to the 2nd branch if you don't want to walk to the new town.
Lou Wong is opened daily from 10am to midnight.
4. Restoran Ipoh Kong Heng (怡保光兴茶室)
One of the oldest coffee shop in the old town, Kong Heng houses a number of stalls selling noodles, rice, satay, etc. It is located along Lorong Panglima, right opposite the 2nd Concubine Lane. Food can also be ordered from Restoran Thean Chun, just across the narrow lane.
We tried Ipoh char kway teow (fried flat noodle), beef kway teow and sotong Kangkong (cuttlefish with water spinach). We wanted to try the satay too, which we heard is good, but they were already closing for the day at around 3pm.